domingo, julho 22, 2012

Once Brothers - a real story of the Yugoslavian conflict

30 for 30: Once Brothers – ESPN’s Stab at the Genocide Discussion

ESPN’s 30 for 30: Once Brothers featuring former European basketball stars Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac is a film deserving its own category among genocide-related works
. Typical genocide films exhibit striking, often recurring themes in cinematography from the imagery, soundtrack and colors to the dialogue, camera angles and lighting. Once Brothers is completely unique, not only from a cinematographic standpoint but from the core of the story itself and the focus on the sport of basketball more so than the focus on the conflict surrounding Yugoslavia.
Claiming that Once Brothers is a film focused on the Yugoslavian/Serbian genocide is a stretch. The conflict between Croatians and Serbs is the backbone for the hurt friendship between Petrovic and Divac. The film focuses on the team, friendship and family relationships more than anything else, and this is what draws in the viewer, not only the story of the the genocide. Regardless of how many others were in Petrovic and Divac’s cross-cultural circumstances, their story is amazing. ESPN captured a powerful story in history that just happened to be draped over a horrible incident in Yugoslavia.
Once Brothers’ place in the genocide context is unique. Few films focus on things besides the brute horror of Auschwitz-style imagery and mass slaughter. Not only does the film uncover how American basketball changed as a result of Petrovic and Divac’s acceptance in the NBA, it also delves into a war which hid yet another genocide of the 20th century. Notice, though, that recency is a key reason why the film is so powerful.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode is unique compared to Holocaust-aged stories because of the fact that the Yugoslavian conflict took place less than 20 years ago. Even kids in their late teens could be survivors of the genocide; It’s so recent. This is not the case with the Holocaust, and each year the number of remaining survivors dwindles. The death toll in the Yugoslavian genocide is much, much lower than that in the Holocaust, but this does not negate the fact that it is still hugely important to study, learn from and remember. Divac was able to grow up in generally peaceful times, see his homeland battered in a civil war, and is now able to visit the US, Croatia and his home in relative peace (Though people still remember his flag incident).
What is also unique about Once Brothers is its specific emotional draw. The viewer feels sympathy in the fact that Divac’s relationship with his long-time friend Petrovic had to end, and was left on such a sour note. The viewer also feels the bittersweet joy that Divac experiences when speaking with Petrovic’s parents and visiting Petrovic’s grave. Genocide films like Schindler’s ListThe Last Train and Killing Fields evoke emotions from the viewer in a different way. Emotions are tested in these films by intense imagery, carefully scripted dialogue, and other precise cinematic techniques. While Once Brothers certainly utilizes its own set of cinematic techniques, it does so to evoke a specific emotional reaction from the viewer, one that’s highly relatable.
30 for 30: Once Brothers follows a few key characters, all of which are real people. Scripted scenes, if any, are minimal. Most footage included in the documentary is of interviews and newsreels and old ESPN broadcasts. While the producer was able to piece together footage just how he wanted, it is still very different than other genocide films. Genocide films typically employ actors to recreate the past, and the directors and producers must visualize everything before it happens, make any adjustments necessary in the script, and carefully adjust and implement different visual and audio elements to get a desired effect. The story of Petrovic and Divac is real, and this is something ESPN didn’t have to recreate. It was right in front of them. Everything was in front of them.

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